WASHINGTON -- Well, it is starting all over again. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has only been in the race for the presidency a few weeks and already she has introduced into the campaign her characteristic hints of the bizarre. First her lieutenants made that ferocious lunge at her rival, Sen. Barack Obama, after Hollywood mogul David Geffen expressed perfectly sensible misgivings about the Clintons. Though Obama had nothing to do with Geffen's objurgations, the Clintonistas insisted he disavow them and return money Geffen had raised for Obama.
The dustup did not redound to Hillary's favor. It reminded the citizenry of the heavy-handed politics of Sen. Clinton's past. An undercurrent of unease seeped into press coverage of the controversy. Journalists and Democratic politicians seemed to sense that once again Clintonistas had gone too far.
Of course, the Clintons always do. They predictably overreact and it gets them into trouble -- avoidable trouble. Now the Clinton team is in a fever about her slippage in the polls and about the drift of Democrats away from her to other candidates. So desperate has Hillary become that she is again speaking of the existence of a vast right-wing conspiracy. When she visited this paranoia on the country in 1998 she became the butt of ridicule. Yet on the outer fringes of the Democratic Party there is the moron vote, which believes in such stuff. Today the moron voters are leery of Sen. Clinton for her attempts at centrism. So she dredges up her bizarre charge: "If anybody tells you there is no vast right-wing conspiracy, tell them that New Hampshire has proven it in court." I do not know who this Mr. Hampshire is, but he probably has a large following among members of the Nudists for Peace crowd.
I myself recently experienced the Clintons' excitable nature, as Robert Novak reported in a column early this month. This past autumn I attended former President Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party in Toronto, where I enjoyed myself immensely. Bill and I were actually photographed standing next to each other, smiling and relaxed. There was not a trace of bad blood between us, despite my controversial appraisals of him. As our happy faces beamed into the camera, there was not a hint of stress on either face. We obviously were enjoying ourselves. It was a reminder that political discord can be adjourned when "Happy Birthday" is in the air.